In part two, we briefly discussed that Apostle Paul’s revelation in the New Testament does not nullify the Old Testament revelation and the Lord Jesus confronted the Pharisees and Scribes for practicing the commandments of men instead of obeying God’s instructions.
In this segment, we will briefly look at righteousness and grace.
A believer’s standing in the family of God.
Every born again believer is a member of God’s family and a beloved child of God (see Ephesians chapter one). The moment a person accepts the redemptive work of Jesus on the cross, on his or her behalf, he or she becomes an heir of heaven. Everything God promises is at his or her disposal. A believer’s standing in the family of God is solely based on grace and is the result of the work of Christ. It is received by faith (John 1:12-13, Rom 8:15-17, 1 Cor1:30, 12:12-13, Gal 3:26). Regardless of one’s social, religious, financial, ethnic or academic backgrounds, everyone has the same standing in God’s family. Every believer is a child of God with full legal rights. He or she receives complete pardon and acquittal for all the sins he or she has committed up to that point of time. He or she is declared righteous in God’s sight.
However, a believer’s walk or actual condition as a child of God solely depends on how one responds to his or her new birth privileges and responsibilities. Every person is expected to grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, see 2 Peter 3:18.
We need to grow in grace
The saving grace of our God has appeared, and it is available to all, see Titus 2:11. As discussed earlier, this grace can be received only by faith in Christ. After receiving salvation by grace, every believer, whether old or new, has to replace his or her old thought patterns and accept the truth about the family of God. He or she then has to live the new way of life. He or she has to accept what God says (in His Word) about him or her. He or she then grows as a child of God by appropriating the privileges and rights. As the Holy Spirit illuminates the Scriptures to a believer, he or she ceases to think or act in the old pattern. This new way of life can be compared to an old computer with a new processor. Although the body of the computer and all other components remain the same, the computer will no longer act the same way it used to. Unlike computers, human mind can choose not to respond to the new processor (the born-again spirit). Scripture warns us that the grace of our God can be turned into lewdness even to the point of denying the only Lord, God (Jude 1:4).
Every born-again believer is righteous because of his or her faith in Christ, see Phil 3:9 and 1 Cor 1:30. However, some teach that you can never become unrighteous. Is this a correct statement? Does the bible teach so? The answer is both “Yes” and “No.” You may ask, “How could that be?” Let me explain. As far as your standing in the family of God is concerned, you are a righteous child of God. There will never be a change to that. You and I will always have this “tag of righteousness” attached to our name. I believe it is sealed in the heaven, and it cannot undone!
Can you, a born-again believer, ever commit unrighteous acts? Can you become unrighteous in your thoughts and speech? Yes, you can. We all do that occasionally. Some hyper-grace teachers teach that a believer in Christ cannot sin and there is no sin-consciousness in born again believers. They even declare that 1 John 1:9 is not addressed to believers in Christ, but written to gnostics in the church. However, the commentaries and treatises of the early centuries do not support such a view.
I believe a believer can and does sin. In our spirit, we are righteous, yet in our thinking, which leads to action, we can be unrighteous. In other words, we, the righteous children of God, can commit or practice unrighteousness. All sins one commits after the new birth have to be confessed.
The epistle of John is written to believers in Christ, or “Dear children or little children” of God, and it addresses the issue of fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. Your state or “current status” in the family of God will depend on your walk. Since we can become unrighteous in our thoughts, speech, and actions, a washing of “hands and feet,” would be needed for the otherwise “fully bathed” believer.
It would be preposterous to think that we will not be held accountable by God for our thoughts, speech and actions as we are his family, see Heb. 12:5-11 & Rev. 3:19. I believe our God is righteous towards all, both believers and unbelievers, as evident in the scriptures. There is no evil or wickedness in our God, see Psalm 92:15. He wants us to be like Him.
Although each of us has been rescued from the kingdom of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of light (Col 1:13), we can, and in most cases, we do walk in the kingdom of darkness. It is easy to slip back into the kingdom of darkness because we had lived there before accepting Jesus. But by confessing the sins one is cleansed from all unrighteousness.
I believe, because of grace, we can always come back to fellowship with God. The throne of God is a throne of grace for the child of God, see Hebrews 4:16. He or she can come to this throne boldly to obtain mercy. He or she is not punished by God, but forgiven when a sin is confessed. In addition to that, he or she is given the grace to help him or her in his or her need or weakness. That is, we are granted the divine power (grace) to accomplish something that we cannot accomplish with our physical strength or will power.
Grace is not a license to sin, but a provision through which we can restore our fellowship with God and walk in authority. Grace always beckons you, without giving you a sense of reproach or guilt. It does not accuse you, but lovingly reminds you of the mercy of God. Grace extends the olive branch, as to speak. Grace is the constant assurance. It encourages and comforts. Grace is the very nature of the Holy Spirit who always reveals Jesus to us. God wants us to grow in this grace (2 Peter 3:18). He wants us to take full advantage of this grace to reach our destiny.
Let us walk, live, and grow in this grace!